by David V. Barrett
The history of secret societies is the history of esoteric religion, and is the history of magic. Whatever their current practices and teachings, appearances and priorities, the majority of secret societies have religious roots. Religion is as old as man, and the priest vies with the prostitute and the spy among the world's oldest professions. This chapter examines briefly some of the many religious influences on present-day secret societies, from the earliest times up to the late Middle Ages.
It should be noted that the dates given for some of the early teachers and writers vary from source to source. Also, the mythologies, philosophies and religious movements in this chapter do not necessarily follow each other sequentially; many of them overlap each other.
The origins of religion are both external and internal. Primitive man was far more at the mercy of the elements than we are today: thunder, lightning, wind, rain, floods, scorching sun and drought, all affected his daily life. Above him was the sky, with the mysteries of the sun by day, and the moon and stars by night. What were these lights? Why did they move across the heavens at different times of day and month and year, and why did they change in brilliance and shape and size? The heat and light of the sun gave life. When it was at its weakest in midwinter, how could they be sure that it would return to life-giving strength again? You put a seed into the ground, and it becomes food. The corn dies, and then comes back to life again.
It's easy to see how Gods developed, from the great powers of nature, powers beyond man's control. Could the powers be entreated? If sacrifices were made to them, would they respond favourably? What was the most efficacious way to approach the powers? Was it dangerous to do so? Could anyone do this, or was it a specialist task, a skill, an art, a power in itself?
And so priests developed
There were other questions to which man wanted answers. What happens when someone dies? Will I die? What will happen to me when I die? If there is another life after death, of what form is it? Where is it? Is it good or bad? How can I ensure it will be good? If there is life after death, was there life before birth? If crops live and die and come to life again, does the same hold true for people? And then a further set of questions. Where do I go to in my dreams? Why can't I bring things back from them? Do dreams foretell the future? Who can tell me what they mean?
Further, in a time where injury or illness could easily lead to death, the person with knowledge of the right treatments, the right herbs, became honoured, one of the most important members of the tribe.
The priest, or shaman, or medicine man knew the right rituals to ensure the return of the sun each year. He knew how best to bring rain, or to bring good crops, or a good hunt, or a victory over a neighbouring tribe. He knew the meanings of signs and omens, and the hidden meanings of dreams, and he could travel at will in his own dreams to the lands of the spirits. He knew how to heal, and how to curse. He was a man of wisdom, whom even the tribal chieftain would consult for advice.
No one lives forever, so one of the priest's most important jobs, for the well-being of the tribe, was to train his own successor in the complicated lore of his work. As the role became more powerful, so the knowledge became more closely guarded; the link between power and secrecy was formed. As societies developed and became more complex, so did religion in its outer, more public, forms: exoteric religion - and so did the secret knowledge, and the secrecy of the knowledge, at the heart of religion: esoteric religion. The two became more and more separate, until the inner secrets of religion became hidden not just from the public, but also from many of the priesthood.
THOU THE TRUE GOD HAD A PRIESTHOOD UNDER THE OLD COVENANT, WITH A TEMPLE, SACRIFICES, AND WHAT YOU MIGHT CALL "RITES" - GOD'S RELIGION WAS LAID OUT, COULD BE KNOWN, IT'S LAWS, AND THE WAY OF LIFE IT PRONOUNCED, COULD BE KNOWN - IT WAS NOT A SECRET; ALL COULD KNOW WHAT THE LOWLIEST AND THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS PERSON IN THE LAND HAD TO LIVE BY - Keith Hunt
Between the Tigris and the Euphrates
In the light of late twentieth-century political and religious repression, it is perhaps strange to remember that the cradle of civilization lay in present-day Iraq, in the fertile land which included the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, and the cities of Baghdad to the north and Basra to the south, at the top of the Persian Gulf. The Sumerians lived around the southern Euphrates over 6,000 years ago; the Akkadians, the name given to a Semitic race who settled in Sumer and Akkad - specifically Babylon - 5,000 years ago.
These peoples had agriculture, cities, and a sophisticated society, with an organized religion and priesthood, and stepped temples, the ziggurats. Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian mythology lies behind the mythology of the tribe of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from which sprang the Jewish religion and, later, Christianity. It has been shown that many of the Hebrew myths can be traced back to the much earlier Babylonian or Sumerian versions.
DEPENDS WHAT "MYTHS" YOUR TALKING ABOUT. WHAT GOD GAVE TO ADAM, NOAH, ABRAHAM, MOSES AND THE LIKE, ARE NO MYTHS; THEY ARE THE TRUTHS OF THE ONE TRUE GOD - Keith Hunt
Islam, which also honours the Jewish patriarchs and prophets, began on what is now the southwest coast of Saudi Arabia in the early seventh century CE, and spread rapidly, moving into present-day Iraq and Iran within a few years of Muhammad's death, with the effect that there was a strong Persian influence on the religion in its very early days.
It is worth noting that when the people now known as Akkadians moved into Sumer, gradually assimilating rather than displacing the Sumerians, they brought their own language, though they adopted the cuneiform writing of the Sumerians. But they continued to use the Sumerian language, rather than their own, for religious ritual, which meant that eventually, priestly secrets were spoken in 'the language of the Gods', and were hidden from the ordinary people.
THE TRUE GOD HAD NO SECRET LANGUAGE; HIS WAY OF LIFE AND HIS COVENANT WITH ANCIENT ISRAEL WAS LAID DOWN - OPEN FOR ALL TO KNOW - Keith Hunt
There is not space to outline all the Mesopotamian myths - Sumerian, Babylonian/Akkadian and Assyrian - but many are still known today: the Creation myth and the Flood myth, with their biblical counterparts, the descent of Inanna or Ishtar into the Underworld, the Gilgamesh myth, and others.
BUT THE TRUTHS OF GOD WERE WRITTEN DOWN BY MOSES IN THE FIRST 5 BOOKS OF THE BIBLE - NO MYTHS - Keith Hunt
One reason for Evangelical Christians' distrust of Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism and other esoteric forms of religious belief is the Evangelicals' insistence on both the literal truth and the uniqueness of the Bible stories, and the more liberal esoteric movements' acceptance of them, and of their non-biblical equivalent myths, as allegorical and as equal in value.
INDEED THE FUNDAMENTAL EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN BELIEVES THE TRUE GOD HAS AN "INSPIRED" WORD - THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE, WITHOUT THE APOCRYPHA WHICH THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH ADDS - SO FOR ME THE BIBLE IS INSPIRED, AND HAS NO MYTHS - Keith Hunt
All pantheons (to use the Greek term) have family relationships between Gods, sometimes with rival families, and usually with rivalry within families. Gods argue, trick, fight and kill each other, resembling humans in this respect. The myths of disputes between Gods, such as Dumuzi and Enkimdu in Sumerian mythology, or between men, such as Cain and Abel in Hebrew mythology, often reflect major societal changes in the peoples, such as (in both these cases) the shift from a nomadic, pastoral lifestyle to a settled, agricultural life. Other conflicts between the Gods might be folk-memories of battles for supremacy between different cities, different cultures, different peoples. It has long been observed that in Celtic countries, when a new race of people move in and take control from the original peoples - who are often more primitive and closer to the land, and have a relationship with the spirits of the land which the newcomers fear and envy - the original peoples eventually become 'the little people' in the folk memory of the invaders.
AGAIN IN THE WORLD THAT IS TRUE, BUT NOT FOR THE TRUE PEOPLE OF THE ONE TRUE GOD - HIS WORD IS INSPIRED, WITH NO MYTHS AND SECRET MYSTERY INVOLVED - Keith Hunt
Zoroastrianism, named after the Persian priest Zoroaster or Zarathustra, can lay claim to be the first significant monotheistic religion, with tremendous influence on the 'Religions of the Book' (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) which followed it. (These religions' beliefs in one God, heaven and hell, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgement and the eventual victory of good over evil all stem from Zoroastrianism.) It eventually became the state religion of the Persian Empire, and remained strong until the Muslim invasions of the seventh century CE.
NOPE, IT HAD NO INFLUENCE OF THE RELIGION OF THE TRUE ONE GOD, HIS RELIGION HAS ALWAYS REMAINED PURE TO THOSE TRUE BELIEVERS OF THE TRUE GOD; MANY FALSE TEACHERS HAVE RISEN, WITH FALSE DOCTRINES OF THE TRUE GOD, BUT GOD'S TRUE PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THE FALSE FROM THE TRUTH - Keith Hunt
Zarathustra, who lived either around 660-583 BCE or possibly as early as 1000 or even 1400 BCE, reformed the complex ritual - and sacrifice-ridden polytheism of Persia (modern-day Iran) by declaring that there was only one God, Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord; all the other Gods worshipped by the Persians were but assistants and servants of the supreme being. The purity of Ahura Mazda was represented by the purity of the flame, and Zoroastrians still worship over a living fire today. It is significant both that the Jewish God I AM spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Exodus 3:2,14), and that many present-day esoteric religious movements, including the Rosicrucians and the I AM-inspired Church Universal and Triumphant, represent God, and the God-presence within man, as a flame.
MANY FALSE RELIGIONS HAVE SOME OF THE "LOOK-A-LIKE" APPEARANCE OF THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE RELIGION OF THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE GOD - Keith Hunt
Although monotheistic, Zoroastrianism also taught the principle of a good power and an evil power. The latter, Angra Mainyu, with his demons is in control of the world though man, with his knowledge of God's law, is able to turn away from the dark to the light. This is probably the origin of the dualistic beliefs of the Gnostics.
The Wise Men of Matthew's Gospel and of every nativity play were Zoroastrians; was much trade between the Persians, Jews, the Greeks and the Egyptians, and the Syrian capital of Antioch, where Matthew probably wrote his
Gospel, was a busy trading port.
Some Zoroastrians today are known as Parsis or Parsees (Persians), especially in India, or as Mazda-yasnians (worshippers of Ahura Mazda).
INDEED SOME OF THOSE OUTSIDE "RELIGIONS" OF THE TRUE RELIGION OR THEOLOGY, DID HAVE INFLUENCE BY VARIOUS WAYS [PEOPLE OR WRITINGS] TO TRUTHS OF THE TRUE GOD; SO THE "WISE MEN" OF MATTHEW'S GOSPEL, SOMEHOW KNEW CERTAIN TRUTHS FROM THE TRUE GOD - Keith Hunt
Mithra, or Mithras, was one of the Persian Gods subsumed into Zoroastrianism; he was lord of contracts and agreements, and was linked with the Sun. Mithraism was the popular religion in the Roman Empire from the second century to the fifth century CE, particularly with soldiers and officials of the Empire. While Zoroastrianism gave fairly equal treatment to men and women, Mithraism was a religion for men only.
SO A MADE-UP MAN'S RELIGION RIGHT UP FRONT - Keith Hunt
Roman archaeological remains in Britain show that Mithraism was a far more widespread and important religion among the Romans than was Christianity. The latter religion as it developed borrowed much from the former.
GARBAGE TO THAT IDEA - Keith Hunt
Mithras was both a sun-God (the Persian Mihr means 'sun') and a saviour God; Plutarch referred to him as the Mediator between man and the supreme God. It is probable that the Mithraic day of worship was Sunday; one of the main festivals was held on the winter solstice, which was celebrated on 25 December. There is also evidence that followers of Mithras celebrated some form of ritual meal, though with bread and a cup of water rather than wine.
SO FALSE CHRISTIANITY BORROWED THINGS FROM A FALSE MITHRA RELIGION - Keith Hunt
Rituals were held in caves, cellars or temples decorated to look like caves to represent the 'cosmic cave' or universe. There were seven levels of initiation: Corvus (Raven), Nympbus (Bride), Miles (Soldier), Leo (Lion), Perses (Persian), Heliodromus (Runner of the Sun), and Pater (Father). It was not uncommon, for example, for a medium-ranking soldier to have progressed to a higher level of initiation than that of his military superior. Little is known of the rituals, except that they were held in secret, with only the initiated allowed to be present. It is thought that new initiates had to find their way through dark passages until they found the light: a clear symbolism. The ritual also apparently included a symbolic representation of death and resurrection. By no means all soldiers were members; but those who were had a special feeling of comradeship with each other in the outer world, and probably recognized each other with secret signs:
Although historically there can be little or no direct link between them, there are clear parallels with the structure, secrecy, rituals and men-only comradeship and mutual support of Freemasonry and other later initiatory societies.
SO MUCH OF MODERN "SECRET SOCIETIES" BASED ON OLD ANCIENT "SECRET SOCIETIES" OF ONE KIND OR ANOTHER - Keith Hunt
Mithraism was only one of several mystery religions in the centuries immediately before and after Christ. A mystery religion was a religio-magical cult, or society, which revealed its secrets, teachings and rituals only to the initiated; the word 'mystery' comes from Greek roots meaning 'secret thing or ceremony' and 'initiated one'. Initiation often involved a symbolic death and rebirth, and symbolism featured strongly in the other rituals. Furthermore, the secrets of the religion were revealed progressively, through a series of initiations, to fewer and fewer people as the initiates climbed the 'spiritual career path.'
NO SUCH SECRET "STEP-UP-AT-A-TIME" HIDDEN SECRETS TO BE SHARED WITH NO ONE A STEP-DOWN FROM YOU, IS PART OF THE TRUE RELIGION OF THE TRUE GOD - Keith Hunt
Other mystery religions were based on, among other Gods, Dionysus, Isis and Osiris, Cybele and Attis, Demeter and Persephone (the Eleusinian mysteries), and Orpheus; this last, the Orphic movement, taught that there is a spark of the divine imprisoned deep inside the material nature of each person: a concept to be encountered throughout this book.
A CONCEPT TOTALLY FALSE AS TAUGHT BY MODERN GROUPS; A CONCEPT THAT HAS THIS MYSTERIOUS TEACHING, THAT GOD IS IN EVERYTHING AND IN YOU, IN SOME MYSTERY WAY, AND YOU CAN UNLOCK IT. ALL THIS WITHOUT AN INSPIRED BIBLE OR JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR SAVIOR - Keith Hunt
Although Pythagoras (581-497 BCE) is chiefly known today for his mathematical work, he was one of the foremost religious philosophers of the centuries before Christ, and his influence on esoteric religion, and on secret societies, cannot be overestimated.
A RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHER WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUE GOD - Keith Hunt
The Encyclopaedia of Dates and Events says of him tersely, 'great philosopher and mathematician, but scientific approach was prejudiced by mysticism.'1 This is rather like saying that William Blake was a great poet and artist whose work was spoilt by his mysticism.
WELL HE SURE WAS NOT TAUGHT OR INSPIRED BY THE TRUE GOD - Keith Hunt
Pythagoras is said to have wandered for many years in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and perhaps as far east as India, studying religion, philosophy and science in an attempt to find a 'unified field theory' covering all knowledge. (Several founders of recent esoteric movements, including H.P. Blavatsky and Georgei Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, followed his example - whether in reality or in self-created myth.) In about 530 BCE Pythagoras settled in the Greek community of Croton in southern Italy, and set up an academy with very strict membership criteria.
Mathematics, music and astronomy all formed part of the teaching, not as discrete subjects in their own right, but as part of Pythagoras's system of belief, to which E.M. Forster's famous dictum 'Only connect!' would have applied admirably. Mathematics and geometry, the occult properties of numbers and the relationship between them, lay behind the whole world, and the heavens above. Pythagoras is believed to have formulated the idea of the musical octave, and explained the mathematical basis for musical intervals and harmonics. The entire universe is in vibration, singing, producing the 'music of the spheres'. He is reputed to have worked out the Golden Section, the mathematical ratio which lies behind much of the esoteric meaning of architecture (and hence ties in with the symbolism of Freemasonry).
SOME TRUTHS HE FOUND AS A SCIENTIST AND MATHEMATICIAN BUT THE TRUE THEOLOGY OF GOD, HE NEVER FOUND - Keith Hunt
He taught reincarnation, a staple belief of the Western Mystery Tradition. He taught the relationship between man and the cosmos, microcosm and macrocosm; this naturally links with astrology, which at that time and for many more centuries was the same thing as astronomy. His teaching on the esoteric meaning of numbers still lies behind modern numerology.
SOME TRUTH MIXED WITH MUCH ERROR IS A POISONOUS RELIGION - Keith Hunt
Like many other founders of occult societies, Pythagoras took on semi-divine characteristics to his followers; he was referred to as 'the harmonic deity', halfway between the Gods and men. He insisted on a strictly ascetic way of life, with many prohibitions on his followers; they had to follow a vegetarian diet, for example, but must not eat beans. Purity of body and behaviour, and complete dedication of mind, were essential.
It took three years to pass through the first stage of initiation, and five years to pass through the second; being a Pythagorean follower took great commitment.
A MAN MADE RELIGION OUTSIDE OF THE DIVINE GOD WHO GAVE US HIS WORD - Keith Hunt
The ideas of Pythagoras greatly influenced Plato (429-347 BCE), one of the most influential Greek philosophers. It could fairly be said that without Pythagoras there would have been no Plato, and without Plato, no Neo-Platonism (which included Neo-Pythagoreanism), which was supremely influential in esoteric thought at the start of the Christian era, and during the Renaissance.
It has been suggested by some authorities either that Pythagoras was at some stage taught by the Druids of northwest Europe, or that he or his followers taught them.
MAYBE EITHER WAY - BUT BOTTOM LINE: COMBINATION OF SOME TRUTHS WITH MUCH ERROR - Keith Hunt
Neo-Platonism is a modern term for the last flowering of the Greek philosophers in the first five or six centuries CE; it absorbed teachings from various sources, and it strongly influenced both exoteric and esoteric Christianity. Many of the Church Fathers knew of Neo-Platonist thought - it was impossible for educated men, including Saint Paul, not to know of Greek philosophy in those early centuries - and some of the theological battles which ultimately resulted in the fixing of Christian dogma had their basis in the disagreements between proponents and opponents of Neo-Platonist ideas.
THE TRUE THEOLOGY OF GOD WAS NEVER IN DOUBT AMONG THE TRUE SERVANT TEACHERS AND PEOPLE OF THE TRUE GOD - Keith Hunt
More important for present consideration, however, is the influence that Neo-Platonism had on the esoteric side of Christianity and other major religions, and thus, ultimately, on secret societies.
MANY FALSE IDEAS WERE ADOPTED BY THE FALSE CHRISTIANITY - Keith Hunt
Neo-Platonist ideas changed and developed over the centuries, as different leaders built on or disagreed with the teachings of their predecessors. As with Gnosticism there is no one set of Neo-Platonist beliefs. Thus, Plotinus (204/5-270) - who was opposed to magic - advocated virtue, chastity and the mystical contemplation of God. His pupil and successor, Porphyry (c. 232/4-c. 305), who edited Plotinus's works, sought practical ethical ways ('good works') for the soul to move to higher levels. His pupil Iamblichus (c. 250-c. 330) who, like Porphyry, wrote a Life of Pythagoras, stressed far more the experiential side of mystical philosophy: using religious ritual and magical rites for theurgy - invoking the power of God or spiritual beings. This emphasis was to cause conflict between Neo-Platonism and the nascent Christianity, and would also give the Roman Emperors an excuse to clamp down on non-Christian religious practices from time to time.
FALSE CHRISTIANITY DUKING IT OUT WITH FALSE MYSTERY TEACHINGS - Keith Hunt
So far as this book is concerned the two most important long-term legacies of Neo-Platonism on esoteric religion and secret societies were Iamblichus's emphasis on the experiential (i.e. the real power of ritual), and his teaching on the hierarchies of spiritual beings which, in a nutshell, found a solution to the dichotomy between polytheism and monotheism. There was one infinite, universal, incomprehensible God, above everything; philosophy (Greek: the love of wisdom) was the true means of approaching this God, while religions were lesser attempts to approach lesser Gods, who were effectively servants, or daemons, of the One God.
The word 'demon' is an incorrect rendering of daemon, which included both good and evil beings, and both lesser Gods and spirits of the dead. Its pejorative use specifically to mean evil spirits is a later Christian alteration of its meaning. Within Christian theology the term might be better replaced by 'principalities and powers' (Colossians 1:16), which are created by the one God, and which can be good or evil. Angels fall into much the same category.
The distinction between demons and daemons is important. Some Neo-Platonists taught theurgy, which might be called the raising of spirits, but is more correctly the calling down or invocation of good daemons. In the later ritual magic of the Hermetic Philosophers and alchemists, and the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (trivialized and misrepresented as 'black magic' by, for example, Dennis Wheatley novels), the idea was not usually to call on the devil and the infernal host - in fact, this was very rare and acknowledged to be extremely dangerous - but on the daemons, the lesser Gods, the angels, the principalities and powers, and the powerful spirits of those who had been spiritually powerful in their lives.
The concept of the One God, above and beyond all Gods, is central to the spiritual beliefs of secret societies. It explains why, although both Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism are essentially Christian in origin and expression, they are also open to those of other faiths, particularly the other Religions of the Book. The Great Architect of the Universe is not limited to Christianity.
AND SO THIS IS WHERE THOSE SECRET SOCIETIES FALL INTO A FALSE MIND-SET - BE WHATEVER RELIGION YOU LIKE, BUT LET'S ALL BELIEVE THERE IS A ONE GOD WHO IS SUPREME; IT DE-EMPHASIZES THE ONE HOLY INSPIRED BIBLE AND ONE ONLY SAVIOR CHRIST JESUS. ON THIS TEACHING ALONE, THE GROUPS FALL INTO AN ERROR THAT A TRUE CHRISTIAN CANNOT BE A PART OF - Keith Hunt
Evangelical Christian opponents of Freemasonry, and anti-Masonic authors such as Stephen Knight and Martin Short, in attempting to tackle this point, really miss it entirely. The God of Freemasonry is not, as Knight and others claim, 'a compound deity composed of three separate personalities fused in one',2 an amalgam of Yahweh, Baal and Osiris in the sacred name Jahbulon. God might indeed be approached through this compound name, or through any of its constituent parts (assuming that this is the correct derivation) - or through any of the many other names of God over the millennia. Man is, after all, only human; it helps to have a name, a label, a set of attributes, to help one approach the ineffable. But God is not limited to these human-applied labels.
BUT NOT TEACHING JESUS CHRIST AS ONLY SAVIOR AND THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE AS INSPIRED, IS A THEOLOGY THAT THE TRUE CHRISTIAN CANNOT ACCEPT OR BE PART OF SUCH A "RELIGIOUS" ORDER OR GROUP - Keith Hunt
This belief in the One Supreme God also explains how mystical Jews, Christians and Muslims have been able to share their understanding throughout the centuries, as will be seen in discussions following.
HOW HAVE THEY SHARED THEM IS THE QUESTION? IF NOT LIKE THE FIRST CENTURY APOSTLES, THEN THEY WERE OFF THE MARK, OUT IN LEFT FIELD. THE TRUTHS OF THE TRUE GOD AND HIS INSPIRED NEW TESTAMENT, WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO HOOK ARMS WITH JEWS AND MUSLIMS - Keith Hunt
The Eastern Church was always more able to cope with the mystical aspects of Christianity, even before its formal split with Rome. Byzantium, or Constantinople, was a more flexible melting pot of different cultures and ideas than Rome could ever be. Byzantium-born St Maximus (580-662), for example, taught what in the West would have been seen as rampant heresy, that the ultimate aim of the worshipper is to become God. This position unites both the Neo-Platonist desire for ecstatic communion with pure being, and the early-Christian belief that full initiation made the devotee a christ.'3
Such beliefs lie at the heart of esoteric Christianity; it is hardly surprising that the Church, with its monopoly on salvation, has always tried to stamp out such an affront to its authority.
SO THE MANY FALSE CHRISTIANITY GROUPS, HAD VARIOUS TRUTHS; THEY FOUGHT AMONG THEMSELVES OVER THIS AND THAT THEOLOGY, WHILE ALL WERE ADOPTING VARIOUS IDEAS AND PRACTICES FROM THE MYSTERY RELIGIONS OF THE PAST AGES - Keith Hunt
It is significant that the word 'alchemy', which will recur throughout this book, derives from the Arabic al kimiya, which almost certainly comes, via the Greek chemeia, from the old name for the Nile Delta in Egypt, khem, which means 'black earth': the deeply fertile, life-giving soil, dark silt from the Nile, amidst the arid desert. The allegorical connotations are unlikely to be accidental.
Although the true alchemy is the transformation of the soul, it should not be forgotten that the first (and the later) alchemists were also chemists. (Similarly, the distinction between astrologers and astronomers is relatively recent.) Those who knew the often spectacular effects of adding different amounts of different powders to each other, and heating them to specific temperatures, could combine being a scientist and a showman; and for outside observers, for ordinary people, both are forms of magic.
As far back as 2900 BCE, the Egyptians had discovered the secret of refining gold which, as a precious metal difficult to obtain, was reserved for royalty. The priests who guarded this secret were not just metal-workers but, in effect, early chemists. Religion, magic, secrecy, scientific knowledge, and the physical production of gold have thus been linked together for millennia.
YES IN VARIOUS FALSE RELIGIONS - Keith Hunt
Egyptian mythology is complex. As with all mythologies, it evolved over the centuries. But in contrast with Judaism, which developed into universal monotheism, it appears that the familiar pantheon of Osiris, Isis, Anubis and the rest was a later development, and that the earliest Egyptian belief was in one God, the Sun God Re or Ra.
In one of the earliest versions of the Egyptian creation myth, the Creator God Atum-Re, who has risen out of the primeval chaos alone, masturbates to create life. In early religion, sex was seen as a potent force. With humans, as with all animals, sex gives birth to new life; with the Gods it must surely be the same. Sexual energy, and the sexual fluids, are life-giving, powerful, sacred.
INDEED MUCH OF THE FALSE PAGAN RELIGIONS OF ANCIENT TIMES, DWELT ON "SEX" WORSHIP IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER - Keith Hunt
Just as Pythagoras travelled around the Middle East and possibly the Far East in his search for knowledge, and eventually settled his school in a Greek community in Italy, other philosophers spent years in countries not their own, learning and studying, comparing and assimilating knowledge.
BUT LITTLE IF ANY OF THE KNOWLEDGE THE JEWS HAD OF THE ONE TRUE GOD AND HIS WORD - Keith Hunt
The study of comparative religion of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is nothing new; 2,000 years ago or more, scholars around the Mediterranean - i.e. the whole civilized, cultured world - looked at their Gods and the Gods of their neighbours and drew comparisons. The Roman and Greek Gods were, easy enough to match up, the Egyptian Gods a little less so, though when the Greeks ruled Egypt they were happy to identify Atum-Re the Creator God, with their own Zeus.
BUT NONE REALLY TOOK THE JEWS AND THEIR GOD AND HIS WORD IN ANY SERIOUS WAY; HENCE MANY MAN MADE RELIGIONS - Keith Hunt
Christianity spread into Egypt from its very beginning. Unlike the Greeks and Romans, the early Christians could not allow any other Gods under any other names; they could not accept that God the Father of Jesus could be identified with Zeus or Jove or Atum-Re as the One Creator God. In addition, the early Christians looked at the openly sexual nature of Egyptian mythology and were horrified. Origen, an Egyptian Christian, castrated himself in order to purify himself. The sinfulness, guilt and shame which Christianity has attached to sex from the time of the Church Fathers onwards quite possibly originated in an over-reaction against the religion of Egypt, and a determination to show itself to be different.
IT WAS FALSE CHRISTIANITY GOING INTO FALSE THEOLOGY, INFLUENCED INDEED BY FALSE RELIGIONS NEAR AND FAR - Keith Hunt
There is considerable doubt as to when the works of Hermes Trismegistus were written, but it is certain that no one person by that name ever existed. The name means Hermes the thrice-greatest, Hermes being the Greek God of the spoken word - the logos - identified with Mercury, the winged messenger God of the Romans, and with Thoth, the Egyptian God of writing, itself a magical activity not understood by the common man. (Note that Mercury - both the astrological planet and the liquid metal - was of supreme importance in alchemy.) Thoth was the historian, and the creator of the all-important calendar by which not only history, but the movements of the Sun, Moon and stars could be measured. As the scribe of the Gods Thoth was the custodian of all knowledge. Knowledge is power; knowledge known only to the few is even more so. Under the intermingling of philosophers and religious scholars of different cultures, Thoth/Hermes became the God of esoteric knowledge and power. A priest, philosopher or magician whose works were ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus was the human amanuensis of the Gods.
Whoever or how many people 'he' was, Hermes Trismegistus was the author of what became known as the Hermetic texts, or the Corpus Hermeticum, hugely important early writing on esoteric religion. (The standard scholarly English edition of the Corpus Hermeticum, with commentaries, fills four large volumes.)
It was thought at one time that Hermes Trismegistus lived at around the time of Pythagoras, or perhaps of Moses; references in the Hermetic texts to the teachings of Jesus were believed to be prophetic foreshadowings of these great truths.
Later scholarship, however, has shown that the Corpus Hermeticum was written sometime in the first five centuries CE, largely in Egypt, as a fusion of Greek and Egyptian esoteric teachings.
The Hermetic texts were known to Islamic scholars in medieval times, but did not come to the attention of the West until they were translated into Latin in 1471 by the Italian Marsilio Ficino. The texts covered religion, philosophy, magic, medicine, alchemy and astrology, all of which were closely linked. They include Poimandres, a Gnostic text about the infinite light of God, and man's journey to enlightenment; and the Perfect Sermon of Asclepius, which speaks of the divine creative Unity above a hierarchy of spiritual beings, and of man, who possesses both body and spirit, having a divine nature.
The Emerald Tablet, or Tabula Smaragdina, is not strictly part of the Corpus Hermeticum, but some scholars see it as either the inspiration for, or a distillation of, the longer work. It contains the saying usually shortened to 'As above, so below', and discusses the Philosopher's Stone.
ALL A PART OF THE WORLD OF PHILOSOPHY AND MAN MADE RELIGION, DENOUNCED VERY STRONGLY BY THE APOSTLE PAUL - Keith Hunt
The Emerald Tablet begins:
It is true, without falsehood, and most real: that which is above is like that which is below, to perpetrate the miracles of one thing. And as all things have been derived from one, by the thought of one, so all things are born from this thing ….
Here is the father of every perfection in the world. His strength and power are absolute when changed into earth; thou wilt separate the earth from fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with care... By this means thou wilt have the glory of the world. And because of this, all obscurity will flee from thee. Within this is the power; most powerful of all powers. For it will overcome all subtle things, and penetrate every solid thing. Thus the world was created.
Within one short passage we have the ideas of the link between the macrocosm and the microcosm, of the One Creator God, and of the power of God being available to man. The words 'thou wilt separate the earth from fire, the subtle from the gross' refer to two of the traditional elements but, more importantly, speak - in what became known as alchemical terms - of spiritual transformation: the separation of the pure gold from the dross of base metals, the purification of the spirit from within the material body.
The translation of the Hermetic texts spurred the sixteenth-century alchemists and the seventeenth-century Hermetic Philosophers who, as will be seen, were of great significance not only in the continuation of esoteric teachings, but also in the development of modern-day science. The usage 'hermetic seal' reflects the strength of the secrecy: permanent and air-tight. This was not knowledge for the common man.
AND SO THE PHILOSOPHERS OF OLD HAD FOUND SOME TRUTHS; ALL SPIRITUAL RELIGIONS ON EARTH HAVE SOME THRUTHS; THAT'S WHY THEY CAN BE SO DECEPTIVE AND SO APPEALING AT THE SAME TIME - Keith Hunt
As with Pythagoras, the influence of Gnosticism on secret societies through the ages cannot be overstated.
The term Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis meaning 'knowledge'. One writer4 calls it 'religious existentialism', in that it deals with direct experience of the divine. The Gnostic looks within himself for the divine spark and, finding the God within, can apprehend the God without.
(Although the word 'apprehension' today usually means fear, uncertainty or disquiet, the SOED gives as a more primary meaning of 'apprehend', 'to lay hold of with the intellect; to see; to catch the meaning of.' The Gnostic would, in this sense of the word, apprehend, or take hold of, divine knowledge. Similarly the word 'comprehend' includes the meanings of 'to lay hold of; to overtake, or attain to; to accomplish; to grasp with the mind, take in; to apprehend with the senses'. The well-known verse of John 1:5, 'And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not' is a clear Gnostic reference.)
WELL THE GNOSTICS ALSO HAD INSIGHTS OF TRUTH, SO DECEPTIVE AND APPEALING AT THE SAME TIME - Keith Hunt
Knowledge, here, equates with secret knowledge, hidden knowledge. The Bible has an exoteric meaning, open to all; but the Gnostic studies its esoteric meaning, open only to the few: the secrets of God, and of his creation.
It should be stressed, though, that the gnosis is not simply an intellectual knowledge, a learning of certain secret doctrines; present-day Gnostics, of whatever religion or movement, stress that it is the realization of God within. Like love, it is a knowledge of the heart as well as of the mind: a state of inner being.
Gnosticism is almost certainly pre-Christian, taking in elements of Zoroastrianism, Greek/Egyptian philosophy, and esoteric Judaism. Some have argued that the Essenes (whether based at Qumran or not5) were Gnostic, and some believe that Jesus was an Essene; if this was the case, though proof is lacking, it is only a short step to suggest that standard exoteric Christianity could actually be a debased descendant of Gnosticism, rather than vice versa. Certainly Gnosticism, though always attacked as a heresy, has had a major influence on Christian thinking, exoteric as well as esoteric.
WITH THE FALSE CHRISTIANITY THIS IS CERTAINLY TRUE; WHEREAS TRUE CHRISTIANITY TEACHES GOD'S TRUE INSPIRED WORD; WHICH MAY AT TIMES BE THE SAME AS SOME GNOSTIC TEACHING. ALL RELIGIONS AND PHILOSOPHIES WILL IN TIME STUMBLE UPON SOME TRUTHS OF THE TRUE GOD - Keith Hunt
Gnosticism has never been one religion in its own right, but more an approach to religion - or rather, to spirituality. Thus, although most Gnostics in the first few centuries were linked with Christianity, there have also been those within Judaism and Islam who have been Gnostic - and who have also usually been regarded as heretics by the orthodox establishment of their own religion.
AND SO FALSEHOOD COMES IN MANY SHAPES AND SIZES; FALSEHOOD WITHIN FALSEHOOD; FALSE SECTS WITHIN FALSE SECTS, AND THE WHEEL KEEPS TURNING - Keith Hunt
It is easy to see why
One of the primary problems confronting all religious thinkers is the presence of evil. How could the good Creator God allow suffering on his Earth? If God is all-powerful, why is there pain, sorrow, death? All religions struggle with this question. Few answers are as logically compelling as that of Gnosticism.
We have seen how Zoroastrianism, although monotheistic, has both a spirit of light and a spirit of darkness. Some Gnostics took this idea further: there is not just a spirit but a God of good, and a God of evil: dualism rather than monotheism. Above all is the great God, the One, but below him is another God, who is actually the Creator God. This is the ultimate logical extension of the more common dualistic belief in body and soul, that the pure, eternal spirit is imprisoned in the dross of the material human body. That which is spiritual is of the good God; that which is material is of the evil God, and this includes the physical world, thus accounting for evil, pain, disease, earthquakes and the tsetse fly. The God who created the world, the demiurge, by whatever name he is known (including Yahweh), is the sub-ordinate God (or one of them) and therefore, in some forms of Gnosticism, the evil God. Ordinary people, through their ordinary religions, are thus worshipping the Evil One.
THE PHILOSOPHY THINKING OF SOME GNOSTICS, AS THEY TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHY THERE IS EVIL; OF COURSE THE BIBLE WOULD TELL THEM, BUT THEY CAN'T PUT THEIR FAITH IN "JEWISH WRITINGS" - Keith Hunt
This is a simplification of the complexities of one variant of Gnosticism, but it shows how far the beliefs could be from traditional Judseo-Christian theology.
Dualism lies at the heart of Gnosticism. Good and evil, light and dark, spirit and matter, life and death, truth and error, knowledge (gnosis) and ignorance and similar paired opposites occur in all Gnostic teachings.
AND SO THERE IS DUALITY IN GOD'S WRITTEN WORD; MAKING SOME GNOSTIC GROUPS LOOKING LIKE THEY COME FROM THE LIGHT AND NOT DARKNESS [SEE DUALITY IN THE BIBLE], HENCE DECEPTIVE AND APPEALING - Keith Hunt
Gnostic beliefs were strong in the early centuries of Christianity, when the complexities of Christian dogma were being codified.6 Many of the more vitriolic pronouncements of the Church Fathers were attempts to counter the often appealing arguments and teachings of the Gnostics.
YES JUST SAID THEY WERE APPEALING WHILE BEING DECEPTIVE, EVEN SOME OF THE "CHURCH FATHERS" COULD SEE THAT - A DECEPTION WITHIN A DECEPTION - Keith Hunt
There was also the not unimportant matter that the teachings of orthodox Christianity came via the bishops and priests of the Church, whereas Gnostics claimed special knowledge of and an individual revelatory relationship with God, and so were out of the control of the Church. A related, but more theological, issue was that the Church taught that God and man were separated by sin, and could only be brought together through the mediation of the priesthood, representing Christ. Gnostics, in contrast, believed that the spark of God was in each one of them; the gnosis, was the revelation or knowledge that they had divinity within them - that they were themselves, in effect, God, or at least, that God could be found within them.
VERY WRONG THEOLOGY, THAT EVEN THE FALSE CHRISTIANITY OF THE "CHURCH FATHERS" COULD SEE HOW WRONG IT WAS, AND SO SPOKE AGAINST IT - DECEPTION WITH A DECEPTION IS VERY DECEPTIVE - Keith Hunt
Without its monopoly on salvation, both bestowing it and removing it through excommunication, the Church would have no power.
One of the earliest Christian writings, Against Heresy by Irenseus, Bishop of Lyons - written in 180 CE - was a polemic against Gnosticism. The battle for supremacy against Gnosticism was no doubt also reflected in editorial changes to the Nascent New Testament, which did not take its final authorized form until as late as 367 CE.7 Many gospels and epistles completely unfamiliar to later Christians were in circulation in the early centuries. The Church Fathers eventually defined orthodoxy (though many of them had heterodox beliefs themselves; Saint Augustine was a follower of the major Gnostic religion Manieharism for twelve years), and effectively selected for the New Testament those writings which best reflected the Church's official teachings. A lot of writings were condemned as heretical, and suppressed; many of these were completely lost until a collection of early documents was found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945. The Gospel of Thomas and The Acts of Thomas are strongly Gnostic, while the beautiful poem The Thunder, Perfect Mind is a hymn not so much to the Goddess as to Sophia, the female wisdom aspect of God, who is found in early heterodox beliefs.
THE NEW TESTAMENT WAS NOT CANONIZED BY THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. IT WAS FORMED AND CANONIZED BY THE FIRST APOSTLES OF JESUS CHRIST IN THE FIRST CENTURY AD. THERE IS A FULL IN-DEPTH STUDY ON THIS WEBSITE ABOUT THE TRUTH OF THE CANONIZATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT - Keith Hunt
The Gospel of Thomas is thought by some to be the lost source document known by scholars as Q, or the Sayings of Jesus, which lies behind Matthew, Mark and Luke, the Synoptic Gospels; it is probably related to that source. It contains a number of sayings which have been excised from orthodox scripture, including several with a distinctively Gnostic flavour. It begins, 'These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down'; Didymos means 'twin', and in early Syrian Christian tradition the apostle Thomas was Jesus' twin brother. (The doctrine of the 'perpetual virginity' of Mary, stressing Jesus' physical uniqueness as the child of Mary, is among other things a clear attempt to dispose of such troublesome characters as Didymos.)
Jesus said to them, 'When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same .. . then you will enter the kingdom' (The Gospel of Thomas: 22).8
Note the echo of 'that which is above is like that which is below' from Hermes Trismegistus's Emerald Tablet.
THIS GOSPEL OF THOMAS I HAVE READ; IT IS UN-INSPIRED AND BETTER TO HAVE STAYED DEAD - BUT DECEPTION RAISES ITS HEAD AT DIFFERENT TIMES - Keith Hunt
In the Acts of the Apostles (8:9-24) there is an account of one Simon, who 'beforetime in the same city used sorcery'; he believes and is baptized, but when he sees 'the miracles and signs' of the apostles, he tries to buy the same power for himself, and is rebuked by Peter. (He bequeathed to us the word 'simony', meaning the purchase of offices in the Church.) There are non-biblical stories of Simon Magus, a powerful Gnostic magician, and his battle of magical powers with Simon Peter. They may have some basis in fact, but it is more likely that these tales developed later as an expansion of the brief biblical account, for Christian propaganda purposes (after a succession of tit-for-tat magic, Simon Peter takes away Simon Magus's power of flight, and the latter plunges to his death, thereby proving the supremacy of the Christian God) - but the very fact that the stories were told shows that the early Christians saw Gnosticism, including Simonian Gnosticism, as a force to be reckoned with. Irenaeus claimed that 'all heresies take their origin' from Simon Magus. Note also that Gnostics were seen not just as people with a false religion, but as people with real magical powers.
OH INDEED MAGICAL POWERS CAN COME IN VARIOUS FALSE GROUPS; SATAN THE DEVIL AND HIS DEMONS ARE POWERFUL - Keith Hunt
St Paul, who was certainly familiar with Neo-Platonist thought, inveighed against heretical beliefs in his epistles. He writes of 'another Jesus, whom we have not preached' (II Corinthians 11:4), and rebukes those who preach 'a different gospel' (Galatians 1: 6-9). Most Gnostics, and indeed many early Christians, believed in reincarnation; this may be why the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews emphasized in contrast that 'it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement' (9:27).
THE APOSTLES OF CHRIST KNEW THE TRUTH AND PREACHED THE TRUTH - Keith Hunt
Many Gnostics were extreme ascetics, denying themselves all pleasures of the (evil) flesh in order to purify or set free the spirit. Others, however, believed either that the evil God Yahweh, who was responsible for this world, thus bore the responsibility for all wickedness in it, which absolved them from responsibility for their actions; or that the spirituality of the gnosis put them above the petty restrictions of morality in the physical world; or, as the second-century Basilides seemed to teach, that in order to speed their soul's way through its reincarnations, they must perform as many acts of immorality as they could, as if to get them out of the way. Needless to say, whatever the rationale, the established Church did not look kindly on such behaviour.
OF COURSE NOT! THE BASIC TEACHINGS OF MORALITY ARE VERY CLEAR IN THE NEW TESTAMENT; EVEN FALSE CHRISTIANITY TEACHES MORALITY; A REASON IT CAN BE DECEPTIVE AND APPEALING AT THE SAME TIME - Keith Hunt
But even with those whose lives were exemplary, the Church has always been suspicious of anyone claiming direct communication with God. Mystics are a classic example. Those who were clearly spiritual - living saints - and who kept to the rules in their outward behaviour, were tolerated - just. Those who seemed to put themselves above Church authority were not.
OF COURSE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS THE POPE WHO IS NEXT TO GOD AND CHRIST; AS SOME SAID [DURING THE POPE'S VISIT TO THE USA] - HE'S THE CLOSEST TO GOD ON EARTH - Keith Hunt
It would be wrong to suggest that all mystics were Gnostic in their beliefs, but the emphasis on an individual, personal relationship with God which is the heart of mysticism is a hallmark of Gnosticism. It has always been wiser by far for those with Gnostic leanings to stay within the main body of their religion; and if they have to speak publicly about their mystical experiences, to do so in acceptable terms; and to keep the more radical aspects of their beliefs to themselves. Those who were less careful, over the centuries, were likely to meet the stake. After the first three or four centuries of the Christian era, Gnosticism, where it existed, kept very quiet.
YES BECAUSE ANYBODY SPEAKING DIFFERENT FROM THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS DEEMED A HERETIC AND CAME UNDER PERSECUTION, EVEN TORTURE AND DEATH - Keith Hunt
The stake, or the sword, was the establishment's answer when Gnosticism resurfaced (via Manichseist offshoots) in the Cathars or Albigensians of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Manichseism, founded by the Persian teacher Mani (216-76 CE), was in its early days a strong competitor to Christianity; it maintained a presence around the Mediterranean, and in parts of Asia and India until the thirteenth century, and traces of its beliefs were found in China as late as the seventeenth century.
Manichseism was not so much a Christian heresy as an alternative religion, drawing on Christianity, Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and very likely Buddhism. Two deities, of Light and Darkness, are in perpetual conflict; the God of Light is the creator of the soul, but we live in an evil world of matter created by the God of Darkness: the God of the Old Testament. The serpent in the garden was not evil, but good; it was attempting to bring Adam and Eve to true knowledge. Mankind contains sparks of the original divine light. As in Gnosticism, salvation comes from realizing the truth about God and man, or rather, God in man. Manichseans also believed in reincarnation. Most Manichseans, the 'hearers', would die and return, but the elect would be liberated from this cycle; the elect lived an ascetic life, eating no meat and abstaining from sex, on the grounds that procreation condemned more divine sparks to be trapped in human flesh. (It is worth noting that it was very likely Augustine's background in Manicharism which caused him to formulate the doctrine of Original Sin, and the sinfulness of sexual enjoyment.)
AND SO FALSE DECEPTIVE IDEAS WERE FORMED FROM FALSE DECEPTIVE IDEAS; DECEPTION WITHIN DECEPTION - Keith Hunt
One feature to distinguish Manichseism from other Gnostic movements was that Mani set up an organization, a Church hierarchy with apostles and bishops, right from the start; this is probably why it survived longer than the others.
As well as in the Cathars, forms of Gnosticism - suitably veiled - also became apparent in the Sufis, possibly the Knights Templar, and certainly the Cabalists.
In different forms Gnosticism has resurfaced in more resent centuries, both in religious movements and in more secretive societies. The Hermetic Philosophers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were influenced by Gnosticism, and they in their turn influenced many organizations including the Rosicrucians, the Freemasons and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
SO THE MORE DECEPTION WITHIN DECEPTION - Keith Hunt
There is still a small Gnostic religion in present-day Iran and Iraq, called the Mandseans, who claim spiritual descent from John the Baptist rather than from Jesus. They believe in the Gnostic (and Zoroastrian) dualism of light and dark, and the soul imprisoned in the material body, and they look forward to a coming saviour, Manda d'Hayye (Knowledge of Life), from whom they take their name.
SOME TRUTH MIXED WITH MUCH ERROR - MAKES BIG DECEPTION - Keith Hunt
In a phrase, Cabalism is esoteric Judaism practised also by esoteric Christians. The Cabala, or Kabbalah, or Qabala, is not just a set of texts, but a means of approaching these texts. The meaning of the Hebrew word qbl is variously given as 'received tradition' or 'mouth to ear'; in other words, its teachings were originally passed by word of mouth, only to those thought fit to receive them.
Although one recent scholar differentiates three different meanings for the three spellings9 - he sees Kabbalah as the original Jewish system, Cabala as the Renaissance Christian version of it, and Qabala as the modern occultist use of it - this is something of an ex post facto discrimination. There have been many varieties and uses of Cabalism over the centuries, and different people of different countries at different times have spelled it in different ways. 'Cabala' is used in this book (except in quotations or book titles) for three reasons: it is the simplest spelling; it avoids whatever specific resonances might be seen in the other spellings; and it is more clearly seen as the root of the word 'cabal', which has entered the language to mean a secret intrigue or a small powerful group, without any religious connotations.
There is some truth behind the affectionate stereotype of the Jewish love for telling stories with a moral. Cabalist writings delight in stories-with-a-message, allegories, parables, myths. So, of course, does the Bible, including the teachings of Jesus - a point missed by those who insist on a wholly literal interpretation of the Bible.
OH THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE AS I AND OTHERS WOULD PUT IT, IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK WE MEAN BY THAT PHRASE - Keith Hunt
The essence of Cabalism, as described in the Zohar, is that most people reading the Scriptures see only the outer story or, as it were, a suit of clothes; a few see the person within the clothes; a very few see the soul within the person. Cabalists look for the inner meaning, the secret meaning, the esoteric meaning; they seek to discern the secrets of God and of creation. One might recognize the beauty of a friend's clothes, and even admire them; but the true value of the friend is somewhat deeper.
YES AND SO, ONLY THE INNER FEW, THE "SECRET GROUP" CAN REALLY UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE; BUT IT AIN'T SO - Keith Hunt
Cabalism originated some 2,000 years ago. Educated Jews at the time of Christ were split into several factions, of which the rabbinical Pharisees - who followed oral tradition in their interpretation of the scriptures and the law - and the more conservative, aristocratic and literalist Sadducees - who did not believe in angels, demons or resurrection - are mentioned in the New Testament. There were also the nationalistic Zealots, who had political motivations, and the pious Essenes, who some think were Gnostic. Although they all shared the Torah - the Law, the Pentateuch, and by extension the whole Old Testament - they had very different ways of approaching it and interpreting it. So did the Jewish mystics, later known as Cabalists. Based in rabbinical Judaism, in their search for spiritual enlightenment they borrowed over the years both from Jewish Gnosticism and from Jewish Neo-Platonism and Neo-Aristotelianism.
As the Jews were scattered and persecuted throughout Europe over the next millennium and a half, it was important for them to maintain both their scholarship and their spirituality. While medieval Christian priests were often almost completely uneducated, and their bishops often morally and politically corrupt, medieval Jewish rabbis were renowned for their learning and their piety.
'Rabbi' is Hebrew for 'my master', and rabbis were teachers and judges of their people, and interpreters of the Law, rather than priests, though they did conduct ritual ceremonies.
Spirituality and scholarship is a powerful combination. In seeking a greater understanding of and closeness to God, many rabbis delved deeper into their studies of the Torah and the Talmud, the written body of rabbinical tradition and interpretation of the Law. The Babylonian Talmud dates in its written form to around 500 CE, but the Talmud could in one sense be said to be ever-unfinished, as later rabbis have added their interpretations and commentaries on it right up to the present day.
With a religion so based on Law, the interpretation of Law is vitally important: hence the importance of, and the deep respect given to rabbis. In any organization there is always a conflict between those who insist on obeying the letter of the law, and those who believe it more important to follow the spirit of the law; there are traditionalists and legalists (by no means always the same thing), and liberals, and supporters of a variety of different emphases. Legalists should not automatically be condemned - in the way that liberals are prone to condemning them - for small-mindedness; some follow the letter of the law because of the importance to them of the spirit of the law, i.e. the underlying reasons behind what might appear to others to be petty legalisms. This can apply to Cabalists, and certainly includes devoted members of some ritual-based societies today.
Cabalists always favoured a more allegorical rather than a literalist approach to the Torah and the Talmud. They also believed that truth could be found deep within the texts themselves, within the words and even the letters. One of the first Cabalistic works was the Sefer Yesirah, the Book of the Creation (second- to fifth-century); this first set down the concept of the 10 sephiroth (singular, sephira) and the 22 paths between them, showing already the importance that the 10 numbers and 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet would have to Cabalism. As with Roman numerals, Hebrew letters also represented numbers, and numbers, as Pythagoras taught, are powerfully symbolic of God and man and the relationship between them.10
Cabalism became more formalized in the tenth century, initially in Italy and then in Germany. The twelfth-century Sefer ha-Bahir (Book of Brilliance) emphasized the concept of the Shekhinah (Hebrew: 'dwelling') or presence or immanence, as the female aspect of God. Cabalism came of age in the thirteenth century in Provence in southern France, then shortly afterwards in Spain, where the Zohar was written (or perhaps compiled), largely by Moses de Leon, around 1285 - though the myth surrounding it attributes the teachings to the second-century Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai. The Sefer ha-Zohary to give it its full title, means 'the Book of Splendour'; it teaches that God is essentially unknowable and indescribable, using the term Aiw-So/Hebrew: 'without end'). Everything in the universe is connected to everything else, and all is an expression of God. The ultimate purpose of humankind is to attain mystical union with God, and Cabalism teaches ways towards this. The best-known aspect of the Cabala is the diagram of the Tree of Life. According to Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Director of Studies of the Servants of the Light school of occult science, it contains 'the entire wisdom of the Qabalah... Owing to its simplicity ... the glyph is easily committed to memory; and because of its profundity, from this sparse simplicity can be derived a complete and satisfying philosophy and knowledge of life in both its inner and outer aspects.'11
The Tree of Life shows the relationship between God and his creation; it symbolizes both God reaching down to man, and man reaching up to God. The 10 sephiroth symbolize the 10 rays of light of God's creation of the universe, and thus the secrets of the universe. They show the levels of man's knowledge of the divine, but more importantly, they reveal attributes of God, which can be thought of as names of God. The sacred name of God, represented by the Hebrew letters for YHWH, or the tetragrammaton, was believed to be too holy to pronounce.
The 10 sephiroth are Kether, the Crown, Chokmah, Wisdom, Binahy, Understanding, Chesed, Mercy, Geburah, Power, Tipharethy, Beauty or Harmony, Netzach, Victory, Hod, Splendour, Yesod, Foundation, and Malkuthy, Kingdom. They and the paths between them correspond to numbers and letters, to colours, planets, angels, parts of the body, and much else; such correspondences are at the heart of ritual magic. Much later, correspondences were found between the 22 paths and the 22 cards of the Major Arcana of Tarot.
With the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal in 1492, Cabalism spread across Europe, and came more to the attention of Christian mystics and occultists. By the sixteenth century it was a major part of the studies of the alchemists and Hermetic Philosophers.
The complex symbolism of the Cabala, embodying both the theoretical and the practical, exemplifies the link between mysticism and magic, and also the importance of myth as a means of expressing truths. The deep spiritual teachings within it became central to all esoteric religion in the West, and remain so today in many secret societies.
SO THE JEWS ARE NOT WITHOUT THEIR FALSE IDEOLOGIES - DECEPTION WITHIN DECEPTION - Keith Hunt
Sufism is mystical Islam; but it is much more than that. In the same way that Cabalists made orthodox Jews uneasy, Sufis raised an uncomfortable mixture of respect and fear among orthodox Muslims. And in the same way that Cabalist teachings have extended way beyond Judaism, Sufi writings have been an inspiration to Jewish and Christian mystics and, today, to followers of other esoteric paths, including those with 'New Age' beliefs.
The early history of Islam is complex. Briefly, the split into the two main divisions of the religion, Sunni and Shi'ite, occurred within half a century of Muhammad's death, and the more radical Shi'ites then split into several more groups over the centuries. Although the origins of Sufism are veiled in that confused state between history and myth, it is known that mystical Islam began very early, probably in the seventh century CE. Sufis claim that Muhammad himself, and his son-in-law Ali, were Sufis.
The name Sufi derives from the Arabic word for 'wool-clad', and refers to the rough wool robe worn by many ascetic mystics, Christian as well as Muslim. There are also possible links to the Arabic safa, 'purity'; the Hebrew Ain Sof, 'without end', the Cabalist term for the unknowable God; and even Sophia, the Greek term for the (female) Wisdom persona of God.
As with the Gnostic and the Cabalist, the Sufi seeks to know the unknowable, to find unity with God. God is in all things, and all things are in God: a common mystical belief, but one which critics have always claimed smacks of pantheism. As with all mysticism, within paradox is found truth; it is both infinitely complex, and ultimately simple. The Sufi interpretation of the Koran is esoteric and allegorical. Sufis, by seeking an individual, personal union with God above all else, put themselves beyond the control of the hierarchies of formal Islam.
It is easy to see how Jewish Cabalists, Christian Gnostics and Muslim Sufis have more in common with each other than with their parent religions - and also to see why the orthodox 'establishments' of all three religions have persecuted those with such heterodox beliefs. Heresy, as always, is defined by orthodoxy.
AGAIN DECEPTION WITHIN DECEPTION - CAN MAKE EVEN MORE DECEPTION - AS SAYING "WE HAVE MORE TRUTH THAN OUR LARGE BODY" - Keith Hunt
After several centuries of persecution Sufism became accepted, even respected, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; as in Judaism, spirituality and scholarship were a strong combination, and many orthodox Muslim theologians of the time embraced and helped define Sufi teachings. The Shi'ites, however, remained antagonistic towards Sufism and, even today in Pakistan, members of the Ahmadi sect of Sufism can be arrested, and have been killed, for doing or saying anything 'to injure the feelings of a Muslim'.
For outsiders, Sufism is known mainly for the famous 'whirling dervishes' who dance themselves into an ecstatic state, and for its beautiful poetry which often describes the loving union between man and God in erotic terms. (While no doubt horrifying to devout Muslims and Christians alike, this is not unique to Sufism; a modern comparison could be the work of the Canadian Jewish poet and singer - and Buddhist priest - Leonard Cohen, which focuses almost entirely on sex and God,)
In its early days, Sufism was influenced by Eastern Orthodox Christian mystics, by Neo-Platonism, and even by some aspects of Hinduism, particularly Advaita Vedantism. Sufis have always had a close relationship with mystics and philosophers of other religious traditions; the experience of a deep loving union with God transcends religious boundaries. It is known that in medieval times, even at the time of the Crusades, some Christians and some Muslims cooperated with each other, and learned about each other's mystical beliefs. Similarly, particularly in Spain, Cabalistic Jews and Muslim Moors shared their teachings.
Although most secret societies and the vast majority of Freemasons today probably know little about Sufism, it holds a vital place in the development of esoteric thought from two millennia or more ago, up to the present day.
The poet and historical novelist Robert Graves calls the Sufis 'an ancient spiritual freemasonry', and goes on to state as fact, 'Indeed, Freemasonry itself began as a Sufi society. It first reached England in the reign of King Aethelstan (924-939) and was introduced into Scotland disguised as a craft guild at the beginning of the fourteenth century, doubtless by the Knights Templar.12
TO BE CONTINUED
SO WE SEE THE MANY DECEPTIONS, EVEN WITHIN DECEPTIONS, AND WE SEE THE OVERALL BACKGROUND TO THE ESTABLISHING OF "SECRET SOCIETIES" WHO HAVE THIS MIND-SET THAT THEY ARE JUST ABOVE THE AVERAGE PERSON; THEY HAVE SECRET TRUTHS [AS THEY SEE IT] THAT ONLY VERY FEW HAVE. SO A WRONG VANITY AND PRIDE ENTERS THE HUMAN CARNAL MIND. IT PLAYS TO THE HUMAN EGO OF WE ARE SPECIAL AND HAVE SECRETS THAT WE CANNOT SHARE WITH YOU, IN ANY OPEN WAY. ALL THOSE IDEAS ARE DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED TO THE RELIGION OF GOD THE FATHER AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. THEIR TRUTHS ARE TO BE PROCLAIMED LOUD AND CLEAR, TO BE GIVEN OUT FREELY TO ALL PEOPLES OF ALL NATIONS.
THIS WEBSITE IS ONE OF THOSE LIGHTS THAT IS SET ON THE TABLE TO GIVE TRUTH AND LIGHT, TO ALL WHO COME WANTING AND LOOKING FOR THE TRUTHS OF THE ETERNAL GOD.
AND HIS SON CHRIST JESUS SAID, THOSE THAT HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL BE FILLED.